The latest stage of a landmark legal battle, relating to equal pay, was set to get underway this week.
The dispute, which centres on the salaries of around 15,000 mainly female ASDA employees, could ultimately result in the supermarket giant paying out in excess of £100million.
This month’s Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) follows a judgment 12 months ago that a group of shop workers should earn a comparable amount to those working in the company’s distribution centres, because the two roles had a roughly equivalent value to the business.
Reporting of the issue has tended to focus on an apparent disparity between the sexes, given that the majority of those employed on the shop floor are women while most of those employed in the distribution side of the business are men.
ASDA had already lodged an unsuccessful appeal against last October’s decision but has now launched another attempt to have the ruling overturned.
The latest hearing is likely to place considerable emphasis on job descriptions and will have significant implications for gender pay cases more generally.
According to the latest official figures, the disparity between what full-time men and women earn remains at 9.4 per cent. While the gap has narrowed, campaigners say that progress has been sluggish.
In order to inject a greater degree of urgency, the Government previously introduced a requirement that all businesses which employed more than 250 staff had to publish comparative pay rates for male and female employees.
However, with six months to go until the deadline, only 1.2 per cent of companies have made their figures public.